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US expats learn Indian ways

Among many things, they are taught to "never" come on time for dinners hosted by their Indian counterparts.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2006 12:25 IST
Sushmita Bose
Sushmita Bose

Among the many things American expats -- and their spouses -- are taught before they take on that plum India posting is to “never” come on time for dinners hosted by their Indian opposite numbers. Also, they are not supposed to “linger on” after dinner-- because their hosts would probably like to watch Koffee with Karan, not conduct polite conversation over coffee served in the drawing room.

That’s how the dynamics play out in India, and expats are taking note as they are coming to India by the hordes. According to Ronesh Puri, MD, Executive Access, one of India’s leading headhunting firms, “The number of foreign professionals in India has grown by at least 30 per cent over last year.” Dhruv Shenoy, VP, marketing, India, says, “We receive around 2,500 resumes from foreigners every month-- mostly from the US, UK, Germany and the Middle East.”

Meenakshi Bhalla, president, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, agrees, “On my trips abroad, many are very forthright in their queries seeking employment in India.”

There are two reasons for this. One, India is “hot” in top B-school campuses the world over. “A lot of graduates want to work in India for at least a couple of months now, even with an Indian salary,” says Anil Sachdev, CEO of HR consultancy, Grow Talent. Shenoy adds that “senior managers seek out assignments in India as they look good on the resume for bigger global postings later”.

Two, there is an admitted indigenous manpower shortage in Corporate India. “In fact, India is fast running out of home-grown CEOs,” says Puri.

“The trickle that started in the mid-90s has exploded since 2004, which was when the KPO movement took off,” says Rohit Kumar, MD of employee mobility managers, Ikan. “The next sunrise sectors for expats will be manufacturing, followed by semi-conductor technology.”

The expats inflow has given birth to a new HR practice at the workplace: cross-cultural training (CCT). “People need to be sensitised about other cultures-- professional, inter-personal and social,” explains Sachdev, whose company trains corporates in CCT. The biggest CCT-enabling sectors today are telecom, engineering and Indian companies with a “global vision”.

India, says Kumar, is like a “slap on the face” for most professionals who come in. That’s why it's so vital to have CCT in place “to ensure motivation and retention through knowledge and cultural empowerment”, says Bhalla.

It's all about the foreign hand.

First Published: Apr 30, 2006 00:52 IST